Tip of the month from PRC 
September 1997

Hazard words and icons

Large collection of hazard, etc. icons added (18 June 2004).
Where to place the hazard texts (added 5 April 2000).

Corel Draw 6 collection of icons: ref. added (2 Sep. 1997).

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Tip of the month is edited by Peter Ring, PRC (Peter Ring Consultants, Denmark)

- consultants on how to write user friendly manuals

Never rely on, that the reader knows the definitions of the hazard classes, colours, icons, etc., even if you have specified these somewhere else in the manual. The result of such a misunderstanding could be severe injury or death!

Definitions of the hazard classes and words:

This recommendation is based on the American ANSI Z535 standard. I am not aware of any other similar standards from other standardizing organisations. If you know of such standards, please e-mail me, and specifically tell me if and where it differs from the information given below. 

According to the ANSI Z535.1 standard, the table below defines when to use danger, warning, caution, notice, and important.

If you are writing for the American market, it is highly recommended to follow the ANSI system in order to strengthen your situation in case of a product liability lawsuit.

If you use colours, the ANSI Z535.3 standard recommends the colours white on red, black on orange, and black on yellow for the danger, warning and caution level respectively.
Danger [Danish: Livsfare]:
The hazard or unsafe practice will result in severe injury or death.
Warning [Danish: Advarsel]:
The hazard or unsafe practice could result in severe injury or death.
Caution [Danish: Forsigtig]:
The hazard or unsafe practice could result in minor injury.
Notice [Danish: Bemærk!]:
Possibly dangerous situation, goods might be damaged.
Important [Danish: Vigtigt]:
Helpful information

Icons used with hazards

ANSI Z535.3 defines a recommended icon system, which is NOT related to the class of hazard:
Hazard alert 
Mandatory action 

It is recommended to include one or more symbols showing ...

The German company CPTec offers a nice collection of free hazard, etc., symbols on their website on http://www.cptec.org/symbols.html. The core pages of the website are in English, too. The formats are GIF and EPS (CMYK).

Click here to download a zip'ed collection of the Corel Draw 6 files with the above symbols.

For creating your own symbols, Wiliam Horton: "The Icon Book" [ISBN 0-471-59900-X (paper), ISBN 0-471-59901-8 (paper/disk), ISBN 0-471-02497-X (disk)] contains rules and advice with many good examples.

Corel Draw 6 has a large collection of icons on CD-ROM #4 clipart/signs.

The hazard text

In rewriting the hazard you should follow this order:
1. Heading indicating the severity of the hazard (i.e., warning).
2. Icon(s) of how the hazard effects a person.
3. What is the hazard.
4. What is the result of the hazard.
5. What do you do to prevent the hazard.
Always write for the worst case scenario and put yourself in the place if you were the worst case person.

Be specific and direct: "Death by electrocution may result", will change people's behaviour a lot more than e.g. "presents an electrical hazard". If possible, eliminate passive voice: "Extra caution should be exercised" should become "Be particularly careful", and "Rings etc. should not be worn" should become "Never wear rings etc. because they increase the risk of shock even if you do not touch something dangerous." The text will be shorter, stronger, and more likely to convince people not to take risks.

Text format:
To emphasize, use bold, italics, another font and/or size, a frame, an icon, or whatever suitable, but never ALL CAPS. ALL CAPS makes it almost unreadable, and you might discover that a court will accept, that it was almost unreadable and therefore not legally acceptable.

For more about how to write hazard texts, try "How to Write Effective Hazard Alert Messages" by Charles Kemnitz.

Where to place the hazard texts

Thanks for contributions on the TECHWR-L from:

If you disagree with these ideas - or have other relevant points, experiences, or ideas +/-, please e-mail me!

Ideas for new "Tip of the month" subjects are very welcome, too!

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